By MEGAN HUSSEY
They are nearly 50 in number, both male and female, ranging in age from 11 to 90 and hailing from Hernando, Pasco and Citrus counties. They come to the community with only one mission in mind: To entertain those who listen with the time-honored magic of barbershop music. They are the Hernando Harmonizers.
“We sing a cappella in four-part harmony (lead, tenor, baritone and bass). Our voices are our instruments, and we celebrate the homage and heritage of barbershop,” said Jay Gettig, founder of Hernando Harmonizers. “A type of music that is uniquely American.”
Indeed, according to the website Dave’s Barber, the barbershop quartet actually originated in barber shops, where quartets would sing to entertain customers while they awaited their appointments. With their style of music initially associated with black southern quartets, the initial written use of the word barber shop can be traced to 1919 and the publication of the song, “Play That Barbershop Chord” (https://davesbarber.com/history-of-the-barbershop-quartet/).
The Harmonizers continue the tradition by performing a wide range of music in the barbershop style, from time-honored patriotic and Western-style songs to classics of the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s, to more modern favorites from Paul Simon and Neil Diamond. Their show audiences and venues are equally diverse, from schools to nursing homes, community celebrations coordinated through the Greater Hernando County Chamber of Commerce and Brooksville Main Street to holiday events, especially those celebrated at Christmas and Valentine’s Day.
“On Valentine’s Day, people hire us to send quartets to someone’s office, school or home and sing love songs. We dress in tuxedos and give them cards and roses,” said Gettig. “We charge $40, with a portion of the proceeds going to Hernando-Pasco Hospice.”
The Harmonizers, a chartered chapter of the Barbershop Harmony Society and a 501C3 organization, also study their craft with director Christopher Barthauer, a member, assistant director and section leader of a number of musical groups who earned a degree in Music Performance & Conducting from the Indiana University School of Music. He is the former regional manager of a piano lessons company where he trained piano teachers and taught private lessons across the Tampa Bay area, also previously serving as the Minister of Music and K-12 music teacher for Lakeside Community Chapel and Lakeside Christian School in Clearwater. The group performs and wins honors at barbershop competitions across the state and nation.
“We have weekly rehearsals that are two and a half hours long and very structured,” said Gettig. “We learn and enhance our craft to perform better.”
And they have fun.
“Singing barbershop is an experience of entertainment and camaraderie,” said Gettig. “This is a big deal in my life.”
The Harmonizers, whose youngest member is 11 years old, seek to pass on their music and craft to a whole new generation.
“As we age,” said Gettig. “We need the kids to take our place.”
The group is always open to new members, and hosts rehearsals/auditions Monday evenings, 6 p.m. at Nativity Lutheran Church, Fellowship Hall, 6363 Commercial Way, on the west side of US 19 just north of Hwy 50 in Weeki Wachee.
Also hear the Harmonizers at the church Feb. 8, for An Afternoon of Music. Tickets are free and a love offering will be collected. To obtain tickets, please stop by the church office weekdays between 10 a.m.-1 p.m. For more information, please call 352-597-1456. And to learn more about the Hernando Harmonizers, visit https://www.hernandoharmonizers.org/.
“When people put their voices together to harmonize,” said Gettig. “It’s amazing.”